Astral Chain looked good and the Switch has been short on new original JRPGs instead of just ports so I thought I'd give it try. Not to mention it's made by the same developers as Persona 5 although other people might have wanted it because it's supposed ot be closer to Nier;Automata.
I wasn't quite sure what I was in for because I didn't watch any trailers. All I knew was it was an ARPG which I'm usually not too fond of apart from the early Ys series from Falcom. It was really the eye candy that attracted me to be honest.
So mankind is on the verge of extinction due an alien force referred to as "Chimeras" appearing through gates on Earth, dragging off humans. Survivors end up building themselves an island known as the Ark but soon find themselves under attack again. Finding themselves powerless they research into summoning identical beings known as "Legions" to fight back. Akira happens to be one of the orphans adopted by the captain in the Police Task Force known as Neuron. With only a chosen few capable of using Legions, the orphans have the highest compatibility to use them. After the Neuron team loses their Legions, it's now up to one of the twins to recover them and continue the fight.
The story is pretty much your usual Anime show and I wasn't too impressed with the opening of the game. A lot of it actually reminded me of Nier;Automata with the cubes and lab. Interestingly enough, this game was already conceptualised 5 years before the team worked on Nier;Automata. according to the game designer, Takahisa Taura. At the time it was supposed to be fantasy game but Nintendo wanted something more reassuring for the new IP and after various revisions they settled down with sci-fi.
Just before each "file" you have an investigation part where you hunt for clues using something called, "IRIS" which is a system that basically tells you what you can interact with and where you need to go. It's good because it kind of leads you by the hand but also keeps it as an option. Downside is the game forces you to find all the clues before you can continue and there's a lot of ones you don't actually need so you end up wasting time on them that come as side quests.
On the bright side, the side quests are quite varied and like everyday tasks which remind me of Gravity Rush. There's even a very similar photo mode too.
The Legions you summon do most of the combat for you automatically and initially it feels like you're just button bashing but combat does get more satisfying. You can loop your Legion around the Chimeras to bind them which suits the title, "Astral Chain" well. You can also watch out for the enemy's attack paths so that you can ram your Legion into them for a counter and after certain combos you can perform sync attacks with your Legion too so it gets a bit more satisfying.
Each Legion has their own abilities so you can choose your own fighting style such as long range or brute force, picking up objects to smash them into the enemy. There's even a mount for running around on although the controls can be a bit annoying. These different abilities are used to do a bit of puzzle solving too to progress through maps so unfortunately, it's not an open world game and has lots of dead ends.
Despite having a "casual" mode, the game it can still be quite tough such as one part there was constantly falling obstacles on platforms you land on while you're trying to aim your Legion to jump across platforms...
While the game does look good in some parts, its dungeon design is really bland, especially the Astral Plane dungeons where it's like staring at rocks with red veins running all over them.
English voices are pretty good. They can be quite bland sometimes or the voices don't match the character designs like they do in Japanese. You also have the option to switch to Japanese audio too once you've unlocked the options menu via the title screen. I usually prefer the original Japanese because if you know the language you miss out on the nuances that give characters a bit more personality such as when saying "isn't" the guys can say "ja nai" instead of "ja nee" or the girls saying "ja nai wa yo" or "ja nai yo." These nuances can actually say a bit more about their character.
It's also a very noisy game, music is very loud and dynamic filled with clashes, Chimeras roaring, explosions, weapons clanging. The mix makes it very noisy, not very pleasant to listen to nor do the sound effects give you satisfaction of unleashing some awesome looking attack.
On a side note, this is one of those action games that ended up giving me a bit of motion sickness so I had to play it in short bursts.
While the gameplay is interesting the Astral Plane grows tiring and the story just isn't compelling enough that made me play on. I didn't enjoy Nier: Automata as much as the demo so I guess I should have avoided this game.
- Choice of male or female protagonist.
- Varied everyday side quests remind me of Gravity Rush.
- Great visuals.
- Fun investigation part.
- Different battle styles, fun chaining up enemies.
- Optional info at a glance.
- Japanese voice option.
- Generic storyline.
- Some clues are side quests only.
- Very loud, noisy music and sound effects.
- Astral Plane gets boring to look at.